St. Louis to offer vouchers to make home payments

Monday, April 8, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- After living in federally subsidized housing for more than a decade, Miyoshi Simmons knows just what kind of house she wants to buy.

"I want my own property," Simmons, a school bus driver and mother of a teen-age son, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I want a house with a fence and a basement -- pretty brick. And I will take good care of it."

Starting this summer, she could get the chance. The St. Louis Housing Authority is seeking to join a 2-year-old federal homeownership program. The program will allow people like Simmons, who already receive Section 8 rental assistance, to instead use the vouchers to help make a monthly mortgage payment.

This program "helps accumulate wealth for those who have never had such an opportunity," said Cheryl Lovell, executive director of the city's housing authority.

The housing authority expects the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve its plan within the next two months. The program is already being used in some rural parts of Missouri and in about 25 other areas nationwide.

In Bowling Green, Melissa and Jason Stoner are already using Section 8 assistance to build a four-bedroom house. The couple pays $326 a month for a $77,159 mortgage, with the Section 8 voucher covering $112 a month.

"We would not have been able to get the house without this program," said Melissa Stoner.

The local housing agency in Nashville, Tenn., started the program two years ago and has helped 33 families purchase homes. So far, none of the families have defaulted on their loan, said Pat Clark, director of rental assistance for the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in Nashville.

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